Less than six months ago, the coronavirus crisis was at its deadliest. Now that more than half of the country has been at least partially vaccinated, Americans see what life is like on the other side of the curve.
New daily infections with COVID-19 have dropped dramatically in the United States, reaching their lowest level since March 2020.
As of June 3, cases had dropped by 94 percent from their peak in January this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitalizations and deaths have also dropped significantly, with the seven-day average daily death rate falling to 363, compared to the thousands of deaths the nation suffered each day at the beginning of the year.
During a briefing of the COVID working group at the White House before Remembrance Day, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky reiterated that fully vaccinated people can safely spend their time without masks with their loved ones.
“All of this is possible as vaccinations increase and cases and the risk of community transmission across the country decrease,” Valenski said.
But she stressed that unvaccinated people are still encouraged to take precautions, such as wearing masks and keeping away from others in public, to reduce their chances of becoming infected with the coronavirus. To date, there is no evidence that loosening the mask guidelines has led to an increase in transmission and may have increased interest in vaccination.
As of June 7, more than half of adults in the United States had been fully vaccinated and nearly 64 percent had received at least one dose. President Joe Biden’s goal is for 70 percent of all adults nationwide to be vaccinated, at least in part, by July 4th. He called for a “month of action” in June to call for more Americans to be vaccinated before that goal.
“People around the world are desperate to get a shot that every American can get in their neighborhood drugstore at no cost, without waiting,” Biden said in a speech urging those who haven’t been vaccinated to do so.
Moving the nation above the Biden threshold of 70 percent will require overcoming factors that make it difficult to get the vaccine or that have persuaded some people to postpone vaccination or avoid it altogether.
The division in the way Americans view COVID vaccines is largely political. According to the latest PBS NewsHour / NPR / Marist poll, 41 percent of Republicans say they do not intend to be vaccinated, compared to just 4 percent of Democrats.
State governments across the country have introduced incentives – from free beers to lottery draws to tickets to sporting events and concerts – all aimed at sweetening the deal for those who have not yet been sold to get their photos. The Biden administration followed suit, facilitating free childcare for parents who need a safe place for their children while being vaccinated or recovering from short-term side effects.
The White House is also launching new initiatives to strengthen its reach in communities where vaccine fluctuations are common and where residents who want a shot may struggle to find it. According to the Associated Press, the administration covers a program in Maryland that equips barbershops and beauty salons owned by Black with doses and educational resources.
Walensky also stressed the importance of vaccinating young people, such as those between the ages of 12 and 15, an age group for which Pfizer’s COVID vaccine was recently authorized. More than 200 adolescents were hospitalized with COVID during the first three months of the year. Almost a third needed intensive treatment, and some were placed on ventilators. These results, Valenski stressed, were “preventable”.
“I urge parents to vaccinate their teens, as I did,” Valensky said. She added that parents can contact medical professionals such as their local pharmacists or health services with any questions they may have.